With life getting back into the full pre-pandemic swing this summer, that means patrons, visitors and tourists can partake in all manner of entertainment come Fourth of July weekend.
And it means that the 2021 Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest is open to spectators again this year, albeit at an indoor ticket-only event at Coney Island’s Maimonides Park rather than its flagship Nathan’s eatery on the New York City boardwalk. With interest teeming in online wagering, DraftKings Sportsbook for the second year in a row is accepting wagers from Colorado, New Hampshire and New Jersey on who walks away victorious.
Typically, the event draws out a crowd of 30,000 spectators, but this year it is being whittled down to roughly 7,000 attendees. There were no attendees during the 2020 contest.
All eyes are on competitor Joey Chestnut, who is “going for an unprecedented 14th Mustard Yellow Belt,” said Richard Shea, president of contest organizer Major League Eating.
In 2020, Chestnut broke the world record when he polished off 75 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes, followed by competitors Darron Breeden in second place and Nick Wehry in third place.
Wagering on events such as eating contests is something of a “novelty,” said Johnny Avello, head of the DraftKings sportsbook. Their main bread and butter come through accepting wagers for major sporting events–football, basketball and baseball for example. But online and mobile sportsbooks have tried for years to expand into non-sporting wagers, such as with the annual Academy Awards.
“It’ll do pretty good,” Avello said. “It’s surprising how much money” the eating contest makes.
DraftKings said it’s offering a $25,000 free-to-play pool for the annual eating contest in addition to the cash wagers.
“It’s July 4, it’s 12 in the afternoon” when the event starts, he added. “The competition will be focused on, pretty much be viewers and bettors and the rest of the day will take place with your baseball, basketball and hockey.”
“Those bets aren’t the big revenue drivers,” Mattias Stetz, chief operating officer of Rush Street Interactive, which operates SugarHouse Online Sportsbook and Casino, said in a 2019 interview. “It attracts new types of bettors that aren’t necessarily super interested in sports but might sign up and bet on the Oscars.”
Nevertheless, state lawmakers are hoping to spell out rules enabling the gaming industry to more regularly expand into these kinds of activities, including award competitions such as the Oscars or Emmy’s, competitive eating, and e-sports, which are competitive video game contests.
A proposal approved by the state Legislature and sent to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk on June 21 would revise the state’s gambling laws to allow for wagering on those kinds of activities.
Under current law, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement has to allow that kind of wagering on a case-by-case basis and impose strict limits.
“Anything they can add to their inventory, as far as betting … I think it’s a good thing,” said Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, D-28th District, who chairs the Assembly Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee and sponsored the proposed Assembly Bill 637.
For competitive eating, the bill limits wagers to $100 and wins to $500. And it prohibits wagering on e-sports competitions where the majority of participants are below the age of 18.